Zero-G News
Volume 14; Issue 347 ~ Zero-G News (ISSN 2333-7257) ~ A Publication Of Ares Institute, Inc.
Breaking News
Successful First Test Fire For Blue Origin BE-4 Engine
Marking a major milestone that bodes well for both...
Bigelow, ULA Announce Plans To Establish Lunar Outpost
Bigelow Aerospace and United Launch Alliance (ULA) are working...
Atlas V Successfully Launches Classified NROL-52 Satellite
After four scrubbed attempts because of weather and technical...
NASA Awards Contract for Integration, Launch Services of U-Class Payloads
NASA Awards Contract for Integration, Launch Services of U-Class...
NASA’s Near-Earth Asteroid CubeSat Goes Full Sail
NASA’s Near-Earth Asteroid Scout, a small satellite the size...
NASA Tests First 3-D Printed Rocket Engine Part Made with Two Different Alloys
Engineers at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville,...
With Irma On The Horizon, Falcon 9 Successfully Orbits The X-37B OTV-5 Mission
Racing to beat hurricane Irma looming offshore, SpaceX successfully...
Successful Debut For Minotaur IV At Cape Canaveral
In a historic first, after waiting out inclement weather,...
Atlas V Successfully Orbits Final Next-Generation TDRS Spacecraft
Marking the end of an era, NASA’s Tracking and...
Falcon Blasts Off On Another Mission To Resupply ISS
Experiments seeking a better understanding of Parkinson’s disease and...
SpaceX Dragon Spacecraft Blasts Off On Second Mission To Resupply ISS
Major experiments that will look into the human body...
Rocket Lab Conducts Historic Test Flight Of Electron Launch Vehicle
Rocket Lab broke new ground today when its Electron...
Falcon 9 Successfully Deploys Its Heaviest Geosynchronous Comsat To Date
Demonstrating SpaceX”s ramped-up two missions per month launch rate,...
Startup Company Vector Space Systems’ Vector-R Rocket Makes Its First Test Flight
Vector, a micro satellite space launch company comprised of...
NASA Selects CubeSat, SmallSat Mission Concept Studies
NASA has selected 10 studies under the Planetary Science...
Delta IV Lights Up The Night To Deliver Advanced Military Communications Satellite
Blazing a fiery trail in the sky above Cape...
Falcon 9 Lofts Commercial Satellite On Second Launch From LC-39A
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket successfully orbited the EchoStar XXIII...
NASA Preps Cygnus For Third Flight On Atlas
Orbital ATK’s Cygnus spacecraft is being prepped for it...
Booster Issue Delays Delta IV / WGS-9 Launch
United Launch Alliance announced this evening that the launch...
Atlas V Wins NASA’s JPSS-2 Launch Contract
NASA’s Launch Services Program has selected United Launch Alliance’s...
Atlas V Lofts NROL-79 For The National Reconnaissance Office
A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying a...
Goddard’s IceCube SmallSat Ready for Launch, Space Station Deployment
Less is more, and that’s not just a buzz...
SpaceX Surprises With Planned Human Lunar Mission Announcement
Elon Musk is not someone who could be described...
CubeSats: Shaping Possibilities in Space
For more than a decade, CubeSats, or small satellites, have...
Falcon 9 Soars On Historic Launch From KSC
Nearly five years after the final space shuttle mission...
NASA Announces Eighth Class of Candidates for Launch of CubeSat Space Missions
NASA has selected 34 small satellites from 19 states...
NASA And NanoRacks Parter On First Commercial ISS Airlock
The International Space Station allows NASA to conduct cutting-edge...
NASA Langley Ozone Sensor Set for Launch to Space Station
Brooke Thornton has devoted eight years to a project...
NASA Sounding Rocket Successfully Launches into Alaskan Night
An experiment to measure nitric oxide in the polar...
Kennedy Space Center’s NASA Day of Remembrance Honors Fallen Astronauts
On Jan. 26, 2017, Kennedy Space Center employees and...
Atlas Begins 2017 With Successful Launch Of Missile Warning Satellite
A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket successfully launched...
Falcon 9 Returns To Flight To Orbit Next-Generation Iridium Spacecraft
Four and a half months after a devastating explosion...
NASA Awards Contract for Series of CubeSat Technology Missions
NASA’s Small Spacecraft Technology Program has selected Tyvak Nanosatellite...
SpaceX Falcon 9 / Iridium NEXT FAA Launch License
Comments What do you think?
NASA Orders Additional Commercial Crew Flights From Boeing, SpaceX
NASA took another big step to ensure reliable crew...
NASA Selects Mission to Study Black Holes, Cosmic X-ray Mysteries
NASA has selected a science mission that will allow...
SpaceX Pinpoints Cause Of Falcon 9 Explosion, Targets Launch Next Week
Four months after a massive fireball destroyed a Falcon...
Next-Generation Weather Satellite Successfully Launches On Atlas V
Perched atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket,...
Antares Returns To Flight Carrying Critical Supplies For ISS
Orbital ATK successfully launched its Antares rocket carrying a...
NASA Prepares The Next-Generation Of Weather Satellite For Launch
On September 27, NASA offered members of the media...
Falcon 9 Accident Traced To Upper Stage Helium System Breach
(Editor’s Note: This is an update provided to Zero-G...
Orbital ATK Sets Target Window For Antares Return-To-Flight
Orbital ATK is targeting no earlier than Oct. 9-13,...
United Launch Alliance Announces CubeSat STEM Education Program Winners
United Launch Alliance (ULA) has selected four proposals from...
KSC Visitor Complex Destination: Mars Experience Offers A Virtual Reality Tour Of Mars
A walk on Mars may be in the future...
Emergency management: A behind the scenes look on the Eastern Range
Last week, the 45th Space Wing’s Incident Management Team...
NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Begins Seven-Year Odyssey To Sample An Asteroid
Blazing a trail into the early evening sky, the...
Firing Up Rocket Engine Tests
A 100-pound liquid oxygen/liquid methane engine fires up after...
SpaceX Begins Test Fire Series On Landed Falcon 9 First Stage
Looking to re-launch one of their succeffully-landed Falcon 9...
NASA Orders Second Commercial Crew Dragon Mission From SpaceX
NASA took another important step Friday in returning U.S....
Atlas V Launches Classified Communications Relay Satellite For NRO
A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket carrying...
SpaceX Launches 9th Cargo Mission To ISS, Delivers Groundbreaking Science
Instruments to perform the first-ever DNA sequencing in space,...
Orbital ATK Conducts Final Qualification Test For Space Launch System Booster
A booster for the most powerful rocket in the...
Delta IV Blazes The Night Sky To Launch Clandestine Spy Satellite
Just five days after successfully orbiting the GPS IIF-12...
Final Block 2 GPS Satellite Launches On Atlas V
Continuing a record of perfect mission reliability, a United...
Falcon 9 Returns To Flight, Completes Historic First Earth Landing
Plummeting through the black sky above Cape Canaveral at...
SpaceX Targets December 19 Falcon 9 Return To Flight
Nearly six months after a space station resupply mission...
Cygnus Returns To Space Riding The Powerful Atlas Rocket
Space station cargo resupply missions from U.S. soil resumed...
Atlas V Successfully Launches Penultimate GPF IIF Series Spacecraft
Soaring through a crystal-clear autumn afternoon, a United Launch...
United Launch Alliance Marks 100th Launch With Morelos-3 Success
United Launch Alliance successfully launched its 100th mission today...
Atlas Successfully Deploys Fourth Mobile Comsat For U.S. Navy
Putting on a spectacular pre-sunrise light show, a United...
NASA Awards Grants For Transformative Space Technologies
NASA has selected eight university-led proposals to study innovative,...
Space Launch System RS-25 Main Engine Completes Key Full-Duration Test
Aerojet Rocketdyne has successfully completed a full duration (535...
Orbital ATK Updates Progress On ISS Cargo Delivery Program
Orbital ATK is on track to launch its next...
Orion Spacecraft Begins Critical Design Review Milestone
NASA’s Orion Program kicked off its critical design review...
NASA’s Space Launch System Passes Critical Design Review Milestone
You know the feeling of pride and achievement when...
Delta IV Launches High Capacity Digital WGS-7 Military Comsat
A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV rocket successfully...
Kennedy Space Center Opens New Small Vehicle Launch Complex
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida took another step...
Atlas Delivers Again With Newest Air Force GPS Satellite
The newest member of the the Air Force’s worldwide...
NASA Names First Four Commercial Crew Program Astronauts
As Boeing and SpaceX continue working toward the goal...
Video Feature: SpaceX Falcon 9 CRS-7 Launch In Slow Motion
During this month’s launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9...
SpaceX Delays Crucial Test, Moves Crew Dragon Abort Test To KSC
Following the successful pad abort test in May, SpaceX...
First Falcon 9 Loss Leaves SpaceX Reeling, Challenges ISS Resupply Lines
Sunday’s loss of the 19th Falcon 9 rocket on...
NASA Launches Suborbital Rocket From Wallops With Student Experiments
NASA successfully launched a NASA Terrier-Improved Orion suborbital sounding...
NASA Hosts Rocket Week at Wallops Flight Facility
Students and educators from across the country will have...
Atlas V Launches Secret X-37B Spaceplane And Novel Solar Sail Experiment
With help from NASA, a small research satellite to...
SpaceX Successfully Completes Crew Dragon PAd Abort Test
A loud whoosh, faint smoke trail and billowing parachutes...
Five Things To Know About Dragon’s Pad Abort Test
Crew Dragon’s first critical flight test, known as a...
Blue Origin Conducts First Test Flight Of New Shepard Suborbital Rocket
Secretive space startup Blue Origin achieved a significant milestone...
NASA Launches RockSat-X Sounding Rocket With University Payloads
A NASA Terrier-Improved Malemute suborbital sounding rocket carrying the...
Falcon 9 Blasts Off With Cargo Supporting NASA’s One-Year Mission
Two tons of supplies and research cargo are headed...
Blue Origin Completes Acceptance Testing of New Shepard BE-3 Engine
Blue Origin recently completed acceptance testing of its BE‑3...
NASA’s Space Launch System to Boost Science with Secondary Payloads
When NASA’s new Space Launch System (SLS) launches on...
American And Russian Begin Yearlong Orbital Journey
ISS One-Year Mission Expedition 43 Soyuz TMA-16M Launch Coverage...
Delta IV Hits The Mark With Another Successful GPS Launch
Piercing a thick layer of clouds that hung low...
United Launch Alliance Lets The Public Name Its New Rocket
ULA is offering the public the opportunity to select...
SpaceX Clarifies Reason For TurkmenAlem52E Launch Delay
Over the weekend, SpaceX filled in some of the...
NASA Provides Space Access for University Developed Experiments during March 27 Flight
NASA will fly six university experiments developed by undergraduate...
Lockheed Martin Pitches Novel Concept For CRS-2 ISS Resupply
On May 10, 1869, Leland Stanford raised a hammer...
Aerojet Rocketdyne Gets Fired Up About 3D Printing
Additive Manufacturing, also known as 3d printing, has been...
ULA, SpaceX Go Head-To-Head At House Armed Services Cmte Hearing
United Launch Alliance (ULA) President and CEO Tory Bruno...
Technical Issues Prompt Falcon 9 Launch Delay For TurkmenAlem52E/MonacoSAT
Technical problems with the Falcon 9 rocket’s first stage...
Spectacular Launch Delivers MMS Probes To Study Magentic Reconnection
NASA’s first-of-its kind mission to study the violent interactions...
Paper: Launch Window Assessment For The MMS Mission
Comments What do you think?
Falcon Orbits Electric Satellites On Dual-Launch Milestone
Working to build a steady launch pace and shake...
Deep Space Falcon Launch Successfully Deploys NASA’s DSCOVR Climate Observatory
The second mission of 2015 for SpaceX’s Falcon 9...
NASA Selects Winning Student Designs Of 3-D Printed Tools For Astronauts
After three months of designing and modeling, a panel...
NASA’s New Horizons Returns First Photos Of Pluto, Charon As It Nears Encounter
NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft returned its first new images...
“Old Reliable” Delta II Orbits First Of A Kind Soil Moisture Mapping Spacecraft
Blazing a trail through a cloudy California morning, a...
Planetary Society Announces LightSail Spacecraft Test Flight
The Planetary Society today announced the first of its...
Photo Gallery: Atlas V-551 Launches The Navy’s MUOS-3 Satellite
Comments What do you think?
SpaceX And US Air Force Agree To Settle Lawsuit
Just days after entering judge-ordered mediation, SpaceX and the...
First Full-Scale SLS Booster Installed On Stand For March Static Test
NASA and ATK have completed installing the first Space...
NASA Completes Investigation of 2014 Sounding Rocket Failure
January 12, 2015 – An investigation team has determined...
Atlas V Successfully Launches Navy’s “Orbital Cell Tower”
Marking the 200th launch for the venerable Atlas-Centaur family...
Photo Feature: Five Rockets Are On The Pad In Alaska
January 20, 2015 – Five rockets are on the...
Five Sounding Rockets To Study Effect of Solar Wind On The Weather
January 13, 2015 – The interaction of solar winds...
RS-25 Main Engine Testing Resumes At Stennis After Five-Year Hiatus
The new year is off to a hot start...
Falcon 9 Launches Fifth Contracted SpaceX ISS Mission; Booster Recovery Test Fails
A Falcon 9 rocket blasted into space early this...
Technical Glitches, Orbital Mechanics Push Falcon 9 CRS-5 Launch Into 2015
The next launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket...
Amid Testing Trouble, Firm Launch Date Expected Today For Falcon 9 CRS-5
We should learn today whether or not SpaceX will...
X Marks the Spot: Falcon 9 To Attempt Ocean Platform Landing
(Source: SpaceX) During our next flight, SpaceX will attempt...
Powerful Atlas Launches Clandestine Satellite From California
The largest Atlas rocket to fly from California blasted...
Atlas To The Rescue, Orbital Selects ULA To Launch Cygnus To ISS In 2015
As the company continues to recover from October’s spectacular...
NASA’s Orion Spacecraft Completes “Picture Perfect” First Test Flight
Reaching a pinnacle in its nine-year development program, NASA’s...
Inferno Over Wallops! A first-hand Photo And Video Account Of Antares Launch Failure
Read the story with a full page of launch...
NASA’s Morpheus Lander Readies New Round Of Test Flights
NASA’s Morpheus experimental rocket-powered vertical takeoff and landing testbed...
Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo Crashes, One Pilot Reported Killed
We have received word that Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo failed...
Antares Explodes, ISS Cargo Lost In Launch Failure
Launch of the Cygnus spacecraft was supposed to be...
Atlas V Racks Up 50th Success With Launch of GPS IIF-8 For U.S. Air Force
A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket successfully...
Hurricane Gonzalo Delays NASA’s Latest Cargo Run To ISS
Already delayed several times, the launch of an Orbital...
Photo Feature: Melbourne Air & Space Show
“We are thrilled by the turnout on Saturday for...
JPL Selects CubeSat Proposals for Europa Clipper Mission Study
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, has chosen...
Looking To The Future, Delta IV Rocket For Orion First Flight Reaches The Launch Pad
A United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket stands...
India, U.S. To Collaborate On Earth Obsevation, Mars Missions
In a meeting Tuesday in Toronto, NASA Administrator Charles...
Sierra Nevada Targets Air-Launch With Stratolaunch Partnership
Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) today announced a design for...
ATK Test Fires Igniter For Orion Launch Abort System Motor
NASA and ATK successfully completed a static test of...
Delta IV Processing Nearly Complete For Historic EFT-1 Mission
Engineers took another step forward in preparations for the...
Sierra Nevada Files Protest Challenging NASA Commercial Crew Awards To Boeing, SpaceX
(Editor’s Note: The following is a press release from...
Dragon Blasts Off With Science, Supplies On Fourth Space Station Cargo Run
Dodging persistent thunderstorms that have beseiged Florida most of...
NASA Opens Bidding For Second Round Of ISS Cargo Resupply Services
On the heels of awarding groundbreaking contracts to U.S....
United Launch Alliance and Blue Origin To Develop RD-180 Alternative
Facing pressure to find a domestic replacement for the...
SpaceX Breaks Ground For Texas Spaceport, With Just A Hint Of Politics
Gov. Rick Perry today helped break ground on the...
One More Leap, Boeing And SpaceX Win NASA’s Commercial Crew Contracts
U.S. astronauts once again will travel to and from...
NASA Rolls Out First Orion Spacecraft For December EFT-1 Test Flight
NASA is making steady progress on its Orion spacecraft,...
Falcon 9 Successfully Delivers AsiaSat 6 Comsat To Orbit
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket thundered into orbit during...
Acoustic Tests Help NASA Model SLS Launch Dynamics
Engineers at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville,...
SLS Passes Milestone And Receives NASA Approval For Development
NASA officials Wednesday announced they have completed a rigorous...
SpaceX Falcon 9R Rocket Explodes During Texas Test Flight
SpaceX experienced a rare but disappointing failure today when...
Amazing Photo Captures Cygnus’ Flaming Re-Entry
ISS Expedition 40 crewmember Alexander Gerst captured this amazing...
Dramatic Video Shows Falcon First Stage Powered Descent After Launch
When SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 v1.1 rocket from...
On Its Way To A Fiery Re-Entry, Orbital’s Cygnus Departs ISS
Orbital Sciences Cygnus commercial cargo craft completed a month-long...
Atlas Rocket Orbits WorldView-3 Commercial Imaging Satellite
Continuing a very successful year for United Launch Alliance,...
ULA Names Tory Bruno President And CEO; Michael Gass Retires
United Launch Alliance named veteran aerospace industry executive Tory...
NASA Releases High-Definition Onboard Video From LDSD “Flying Saucer” Test
NASA’s Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) project successfully flew a...
NASA To Create First 3D-Printed Space Cameras
By the end of September, NASA aerospace engineer Jason...
Final European Automated Transfer Vehicle Blasts Off On Ariane 5 To Resupply ISS
The European Space Agency’s (ESA) fifth and final Automated...
Delta IV Dodges Weather To Launch GSSAT Spacecraft On Fifth Try
After nearly a week of frustrating technical and then...
Delta II Returns To Service To Launch NASA’s First Carbon Monitoring Spacecraft
Following a one-day delay to fix a balky water...
Success For NASA’s Experimental Supersonic “Flying Saucer”
NASA officials are calling today’s near-space test flight of...
2014 NASA Advanced Technology Phase I Concepts Selected For Study
NASA has selected 12 proposals for study under Phase...
Projects Selected For NASA’s 2015 X-Hab Academic Innovation Challenge
NASA and the National Space Grant Foundation have selected...
Orion Stacking Operations Begin For December EFT-1 Launch
With just six months until its first trip to...
Engine Failure Investigation Slips Next Cygnus ISS Resupply Mission Into July
Orbital Sciences Corporation announced that it has updated its...
NASA Video Highlights Orion, SLS Development Progress
This is NASA’s Exploration Systems Mission Directorate quarterly update...
NASA Uses Laser To Beam “Hello, World!” Video From ISS
NASA successfully beamed a high-definition video 260 miles from...
NASA’s Final Commercial Orbital Transportation Services Report Released
With two companies now providing commercial cargo launch services...
Orion Receives Heat Shield For Late 2014 EFT-1 Test Flight
Lockheed Martin technicians and engineers attach the heat shield...
Photo Feature: Meet The SpaceX Dragon V2 Spacecraft
SpaceX CEO and founder Elon Musk unveiled the Dragon...
NASA Readies Futuristic “Flying Saucer” For Flight Over Hawaii
UPDATE: Due to weather conditions, there will be no...
SpaceX Unveils Next-Generation Manned Dragon Spacecraft
With just a bit of Hollywood-esque flash, SpaceX unveiled...
Atlas V Successfully Deploys Classified NROL-33 Satellite
While the battle between SpaceX and United Launch Alliance...
Photo Feature: The Powerful Atlas Rocket Ready To Launch NROL-33
  Comments What do you think?
Delta IV Launches Sixth Upgraded GPS Satellite
America’s newest Global Positioning System satellite is now in...
Orbital And ATK Announce Merger Continuing Industry Consolidation
Orbital Sciences Corporation today announced that it has entered...
New Spacecraft Will Become First U.S. Space Lifeboat in 40 Years
The next generation of American spacecraft designed to carry...
NASA Partnerships Launch Multi-User Spaceport
Teamed with its industry partners, NASA’s Kennedy Space Center...
NASA Outlines Future Path To Human Mars Exploration
I will join 11 senior NASA officials in a...
Dragon Begins Third ISS Resupply Mission; First Stage Recovery Test Success
  A GoPro Captures Launch Of A SpaceX Falcon...
Atlas V Successfully Deploys Classified NROL-67 Satellite
. United Launch Alliance successfully launched the second mission...
Morpheus Completes First Test Of Hazard Avoidance System
The Morpheus team successfully completed Free Flight 10 (FF10)...
NASA’s LRO Mission and North America to Experience Total Lunar Eclipse
When people in North America look up at the...
Orion Avionics System Ready For Exploration Flight Test-1
Testing of the Orion spacecraft’s avionics system has concluded...
Space Launch System Core Stage Model ‘Sounds’ Off for Testing
A 5-percent scale model of the Space Launch System...
NASA Selects New Suborbital Technology Payloads
NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program has selected 13 space technology...
Air Force Weather Satellite Successfully Deployed On ULA’s 80th Launch
A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket successfully...
Soyuz Blasts Off To Orbit Europe’s Sentinel-1A Earth Oservation Satellite
Continuing their track record for delivering both commercial and...
Air Force Releases Details Of Incident That Scrubbed Atlas And Falcon Launches
In the wake of serious outage on the U.S....
Orion Integration Makes Progress Toward Late-Year EFT-1 Mission
Orion is marching ever closer to its first trip...
Atlas 5 Rocket Launches To Successfully Deploy NASA’s Newest TDRS Satellite
A United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket thundered into...
Dragon Passes Another Milestone With Sucessful Parachute Drop Test Over Pacific Ocean
Engineers and safety specialists from NASA and Space Exploration...
NASA’s Morpheus Lander Soars Over Kennedy Space Center As Tests Continue
NASA’s Morpheus lander testbed resumed testing following a break...
2013 NASA Safety Report Highlights Funding Uncertainty, Commercial Crew Progress
The Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP), an advisory committee...
NASA, Commercial Crew Partners Look To Make Strides In 2014
Several companies, working closely with NASA, ended 2013 with...
Space Launch System Could Enable Transformational Missions, Scientists Say
The human spaceflight community joined the space science community...
NASA Administrator Visits Michoud, Tours SLS Facilities
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden Monday visited the agency’s Michoud...
Florida Schools Send Experiments To ISS On Board Orbital’s Cygnus
When Orbital Sciences Corporation’s Cygnus cargo ship arrived at...
Cygnus Arrives At ISS With Supplies, Experiments
Astronauts aboard the International Space Station Sunday used a...
Virgin Galactic Reaches New Heights in Third Supersonic Test Flight‏
Virgin Galactic, the world’s first commercial spaceline, which is...
SpaceX Manifest Grows With JCSAT 14 Launch Contract
Fresh off its second successful launch of a commercial...
NASA, White House Discuss ISS Life Extension At International Space Exploration Forum
Speaking at a global space exploration forum Thursday, John...
NASA Powers Up SLS Avionics For The First Time
The modern avionics system that will guide NASA’s Space...
Antares Blasts Off With Cygnus On First Contracted ISS Resupply Mission
Marking the beginning of regular supply runs to the...
Antares Set For Chilly Launch To Space Station
1/8/14 7:00 am EST UPDATE: Early this morning the...
SpaceX Rings In The New Year With Launch Of Thai Satellite
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket blasted off from Cape...
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 Poised For First Launch Of New Year
Looking to start 2014 with a roar, SpaceX is...
Photo Feature: NASA Readies TDRS-L Spacecraft For Late January Launch
NASA’s Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS)-L was the...
Boeing Announces Expansion Of X-37B Operations At Kennedy Space Center
In what could be a boon for the aerospace...
SpaceX Delays Falcon 9 Launch Of Thaicom 6, Remains Confident Of January Liftoff
Bird-watchers on the beaches of Cape Canaveral will have...
NASA’s Resurrected Infrared Telescope Captures First Images, Prepares To Hunt Asteroids
NASA’s Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE), a...
NASA’s Next Mars Lander Gets A Launch Vehicle
NASA has selected United Launch Services LLC of Centennial,...
Dreamchaser Completes NASA Commercial Crew Milestones
Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) today announced that the company...
Aerojet Rocketdyne Completes Launch Abort Engine Testing for Boeing CST-100 Spacecraft
Aerojet Rocketdyne announced today that it completed development testing...
Balky Station Cooling Pump Creates Delay, Uncertainty For Cygnus Resupply Mission
NASA and Orbital Sciences Corp. Saturday moved the targeted...
SpaceX Gains Advantage Over Blue Origin In Fight For Former Shuttle Launch Pad
Government Accountability Office denies Blue Origin’s protest over fairness...
Cygnus Joins Antares For Second Space Station Supply Run
On December 10, Orbital Sciences Corporation’s operations team mated...
NASA’s Juno Photographs Spectacular Views Of Earth And Moon During Flyby
When NASA’s Juno spacecraft flew past Earth on Oct....
NASA’s Morpheus Lander Returns To Flight At Kennedy Space Center
Rebuilt and better than ever, NASA’s Morpheus prototype lander...
Proton Notches Another Success With Launch Of Inmarsat-5 F1
An International Launch Services (ILS) Proton Breeze M successfully...
Atlas V Lofts Top-Secret Satellite, 12 CubeSats For NASA And Education
A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying a...
SpaceX Reaches Milestone With Falcon 9 Launch Of Commercial Satellite
Making its commercial debut, an upgraded Falcon 9 rocket...
Blue Origin Test-Fires New BE-3 Rocket Engine
NASA commercial crew partner Blue Origin of Kent, Wash.,...
China Successfully Launches First Lunar Lander Chang’e 3
A Long March 3B rocket blasted off from the...
SpaceX Targets Thanksgiving For Inaugural Falcon 9 GTO Mission
SpaceX is hoping for a special Thanksgiving after the...
NASA’s MAVEN Rockets To Explore Mysteries Of Mars Atmosphere
 With a thunderous roar, NASA’s Mars Atmoshere and Volatile...
Today In History, November 10, 1964 – KSC Mercury Monument Dedication
The Mercury Monument stands outside of Complex 14 was...
Dream Chaser And Role Of The Media On Public Perception Of Failure
Last week, Sierra Nevada conducted the first free-flight test...
Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser Suffers Setback During First Free Flight Test
Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) suffered an apparent setback of...
Proton Rocket Successfully Launches FM-6 Satellite For Sirius XM Radio
International Launch Services (ILS), a leader in providing mission...
This LADEE Wasn’t Just Eating Bon Bon’s During The Government Shutdown
During the NASA shutdown, the LADEE mission continued to...
Proton Set To Launch Comsat For Sirius XM After 24-Hour Delay
The launch of a Proton launch vehicle with the...
Dramatic Video Captures Grasshopper’s Highest Jump To Date
On Monday, October 7th, Grasshopper completed its highest leap...
The View From Here: Curiosity Looks Back At Home
The HiRISE instrument would make a great backyard telescope...
SpaceX Releases New Photos And Video Of Next-Gen Falcon 9 Demo
SpaceX released stunning new photos and video from the...
MAVEN Granted Reprieve, Preparations Resume For November Launch
The cloud of pessimism over NASA because of funding...
Second-Generation Falcon Takes Flight To Test New Engines, Recoverability
Equipped with upgraded engines, computer systems and greatly improved...
Curiosity Fails To Find Methane And Adds To The Mystery Of Life On Mars
Data from NASA’s Curiosity rover has revealed the Martian...
Historic Comet Hunting Mission Ends As Deep Impact Falls Silent
After almost 9 years in space that included an...
Orbital’s Antares Blasts Off On First Cygnus Mission To ISS
Marking a giant stride forward in NASA’s plans to...
On Its 40th Mission, Atlas Deploys Third Advanced Extremely High Frequency Satellite
Dodging rain and high winds, an Atlas V rocket...
Moon Express’ Guidance Software Flies NASA’s Mighty Eagle On A Successful Test
The Mighty Eagle, a NASA robotic prototype lander managed...
To Boldly Go… Voyager 1 Reaches For The Stars
There was a time over a generation ago when...
NASA’s Lunar Dust Explorer Blasts Off From Virginia Spaceport
UPDATE: NASA has confirmed that the reaction wheels of...
Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo Conducts Second Powered Test Flight
Suborbital passenger spaceflight pioneer Virgin Galactic passed another major...
NASA Narrows List Of Potential Sites For Next Mars Lander
NASA has narrowed to four the number of potential...
STS-3 Space Shuttle Columbia Photo And Video Collection
Former NASA astronaut Gordon Fullerton passed away this week....
It’s Been 20 Years Since The First Flight Of DC-X
It’s been 20 years since the remarkable DC-X Delta...
NASA Prepares LADEE for First Virginia Coast Launch to Moon
In an attempt to answer prevailing questions about our...
Sierra Nevada Makes Second Successful Dream Chaser Captive-Carry Test Flight
NASA partner Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) of Louisville, Colo.,...
NASA Releases New Graphic and Video Depictions of Asteroid Mission
NASA released Thursday new photos and video animations depicting...
NASA Astronaut Candidate Class Of 2013 Introduced To The Public
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden on Tuesday formally welcomed the...
NASA Wallops Launch Facility To Host A Moon Mission Celebration August 21
The upcoming moon mission at the NASA Wallops Flight...
NASA Seeks Users For Shuttle Era Launch Structures
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida is seeking concepts...
NASA Selects Technology Demonstration Projects for Suborbital Research Flights
NASA has selected for possible flight demonstration 10 proposals...
NASA Commercial Crew Partner SpaceX Completes Orbit and Entry Review
NASA Commercial Crew Program (CCP) partner Space Exploration Technologies...
NASA Adds Milestones To Commercial Crew Initiative, Funds SpaceX, Sierra Nevada
NASA announced Thursday it is adding some additional milestones...
NASA Launches Suborbital RockSat-X Mission With Student Payloads
A Terrier-Improved Malemute suborbital rocket carrying experiments developed by...
Delta IV Rocket Successfully Launches Sixth Wideband Global Satcom Military Satellite
Blazing through the evening skies over Florida, a United...
Japanese Resupply Craft HTV-4 Is Captured And Berthed To ISS
The fourth Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency H-II Transfer Vehicle,...
Progress 52 Resupply Ship Docks With ISS
The ISS Progress 52 resupply ship docked with the...
ULA Completes Five Major Milestones In Just Eight Days, Including One Launch
During the last eight days, the United Launch Alliance...
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December 13, 2013
SpaceX Gains Advantage Over Blue Origin In Fight For Former Shuttle Launch Pad

Government Accountability Office denies Blue Origin’s protest over fairness of NASA’s selection process for new user of Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39-A

“On Dec. 12, 2013, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) notified NASA that it had denied a protest filed against the Agency by Blue Origin LLC on Sept. 13, 2013. In its protest, Blue Origin raised concerns about the competitive process NASA was using to try to secure a potential commercial partner(s) to lease and maintain the Agency’s Launch Complex (LC) 39-A at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Blue Origin had argued that the language in the “Announcement for Proposals” (AFP) favored one proposed use of LC-39A over others. The GAO disagreed.

“Given today’s GAO ruling, NASA is looking forward in the near future to selecting an industry partner for negotiations to lease and operate LC-39A. Permitting use of this valuable national asset by commercial entities will ensure its continued viability and will allow for its continued use in support of U.S. space activities.

“The reuse of LC-39A is part of NASA’s work to transform the Kennedy Space Center into a 21st-century launch complex capable of supporting both government and commercial users. Kennedy is having success attracting significant private sector interest in its unique facilities. The center is hard at work assembling NASA’s Orion spacecraft and preparing its infrastructure for the Space Launch System rocket, which will launch from LC-39B and take American astronauts into deep space, including an asteroid and Mars.

“In the meantime, in order to maintain the integrity of the LC-39A competition, NASA will not be commenting on or providing additional information about the LC-39A competition beyond the publicly-released, May 23, 2013 Announcement for Proposals until an agency selection related to LC-39A is made and announced publicly by the agency.”

Download the Full Text of the GAO’s Decision (PDF Link)

 

Decision
Matter of: Blue Origin, LLC
File: B-408823
Date: December 12, 2013

Kevin C. Dwyer, Esq., Kevin P. Mullen, Esq., and Ethan E. Marsh, Esq., Jenner & Block LLP, for the protester.

Richard J. Vacura, Esq., and Pablo A. Nichols, Esq., Morrison & Foerster LLP, for Space Exploration Technologies Corporation, an intervenor.

Richard J. McCarthy, Esq., Bradley W. Smith, Esq., and Geoffrey Swanson, Esq., National Aeronautics and Space Administration, for the agency.

Scott H. Riback, Esq., and Tania Calhoun, Esq., Office of the General Counsel, GAO, participated in the preparation of the decision.

DIGEST

1. Government Accountability Office has jurisdiction to consider protest challenging terms of solicitation for the award of a lease of federal property where the record shows that the agency will receive benefits–both tangible and intangible–in connection with the award of the lease, such that the agency is, in effect, conducting a procurement for goods and services.

2. Protest that solicitation for the lease of a launch pad at Kennedy Space Center favors a multi-user approach over an exclusive user approach is denied where record shows that solicitation contemplates two possible approaches, but includes no preference for one approach versus another, and merely requires different information depending upon which approach is being offered.

DECISION

Blue Origin, LLC, of Kent, Washington, protests the actions of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in connection with its issuance of announcement for proposals (AFP) No. AFP-KSC-LC39A, for the lease of Launch Complex 39A (LC 39A) at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC). Blue Origin maintains that the agency intends to misapply the terms of the AFP in evaluating proposals and selecting a prospective lessee for the facility.

We deny the protest.

BACKGROUND

LC 39A is an historic launch complex that NASA used throughout the Apollo and Space Shuttle programs. With the conclusion of those programs, NASA determined that presently it has no foreseeable use for LC 39A, and no budget to operate and maintain the facility. The agency has determined that LC 39A potentially could be a useful launch facility for commercial space launch companies that would assume financial and technical responsibility for operation and maintenance of the facility. Accordingly, NASA issued the subject AFP to solicit proposals to enter into an agreement to use the facility for a minimum period of 5 years. AFP at BATES 6. The AFP describes NASA’s intended transaction as follows:

NASA intends to establish a Public-Private or Public-Public Venture (PPV) to grant a partner(s) an interest in real property for a specified term through an instrument(s) such as a lease, a use permit, or other form of property out-grant term as authorized by the Commercial Space Launch Act (CSLA) [51 U.S.C. chapter 509 (Supp. IV, 2010)] or the Space Act [51 U.S.C. chapter 201 (Supp. IV, 2010)]. NASA KSC intends to grant the industry partner(s) sufficient rights to occupy, operate, modify and maintain the LC 39A as necessary to support the partner’s proposed use.

NASA expects the potential partner(s) to be fully responsible for the operations and maintenance of the facility, to include equipment, at their own expense, for the term of any agreement(s). The agreement(s) will fully define the roles and responsibilities of NASA and the Partner(s).

AFP at BATES 6.

The AFP contemplates two potential arrangements for the use of the launch facility. Under the terms of the AFP, firms are required to stipulate whether their proposed use will be exclusive–that is, only the proposing firm would be able to use LC 39A to launch its space vehicles–or whether they propose to make LC 39A available to multiple users. AFP at BATES 8. The question of an exclusive versus multiple user arrangement is at the heart of Blue Origin’s protest.

In response to the AFP, the agency received two timely proposals by the July 5, 2013, deadline for their submission, one from the protester and one from Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX). The agency currently is in the process of evaluating those proposals, and has not yet announced any conclusions. All parties acknowledge, and are aware of, the fact that Blue Origin has proposed a multi-user approach, whereas, SpaceX has proposed an exclusive use approach.[1]

After the submission of proposals, Blue Origin filed an agency-level protest with NASA in the wake of certain remarks made by NASA’s Administrator. Specifically, by letter dated August 8, Blue Origin protested that the Administrator’s remarks demonstrated that NASA intended to evaluate proposals in a manner that was inconsistent with what Blue Origin viewed as the requirements of the AFP. Agency Report (AR) exh. 17, Blue Origin Agency-Level Protest. Blue Origin takes the position (discussed in detail below) that the AFP includes a preference for using LC 39A as a multi-user launch facility. In support of its position, Blue Origin noted that NASA’s administrator had remarked publicly that NASA would prefer launch complex 39B (LC 39B, which is adjacent to LC 39A, is essentially a companion launch pad) to be the multi-user launch facility. According to the protester, this demonstrated that the agency would not evaluate proposals in accordance with the terms of the AFP for LC 39A.

By letter dated August 23, NASA denied Blue Origin’s protest. AR, exh. 18, NASA Response to Blue Origin Agency-Level Protest.[2] The agency expressed its view that the AFP did not include a preference for a multi-user approach for LC 39A. NASA further concluded that the comments of the NASA Administrator would have no effect or influence on the selection process for the successful concern under the AFP. Blue Origin filed this protest after its receipt of the agency’s letter denying its agency-level protest.

JURISDICTION

As a threshold matter, NASA maintains that our Office lacks jurisdiction to consider Blue Origin’s protest. NASA argues that our jurisdiction is confined to protests challenging the award or failure to award a contract for the procurement of goods or services. According to the agency, it is not entering into a contract for the procurement of goods or services, but, rather, it intends to execute a lease by a private concern of federally-owned property.[3]

Blue Origin contends that, in fact, our Office does have jurisdiction to consider its protest. According to Blue Origin, although the contract is for the lease of LC 39A, it also includes elements of a procurement of goods or services. In this connection, Blue Origin points out that the successful lessee will be required to bear the expense of operating and maintaining LC 39A throughout the term of the lease. Blue Origin argues that, during the lease term, various elements LC 39A will be either maintained in a safe and operable condition or demolished.[4] Blue Origin maintains that, because NASA requires access to areas in and around LC 39A in connection with the agency’s operation of LC 39B,[5] it will benefit from the lessee’s maintenance or demolition of these elements of the launch pad because the areas that NASA will need to access will be rendered safe.[6] Blue Origin points out as well that, at the conclusion of the lease, LC 39A will revert to NASA in at least a maintained, and potentially an improved, condition. The protester argues that we previously have taken jurisdiction in cases such as this where the contract contemplates a “mixed transaction,” that is, one where there are elements of both a sale or lease of government property, and also the procurement of goods and services are involved.

In response to the protester’s arguments, NASA asserts that it has no current or future foreseeable need for LC 39A. According to the agency, if it is unable to lease LC 39A, it is prepared to let it “rust to the ground.” Agency Motion for Dismissal, Sept. 9, 2013, at 5 n.1. NASA contends that maintenance of the various elements of the LC 39A complex (such as the FSS and RSS) is unnecessary to ensure the safety of its workers. NASA also argues that it has no need for a maintained or improved launch facility. NASA summarizes as follows:

Protester concludes by speculating that there may come a time when the Agency needs LC 39A again–either in support of its commercial crew program or perhaps for a heretofore unthought-of program, highlighting that the Agency “is clearly conscious of this potential benefit, otherwise the AFP would not require a lessee to maintain Launch Complex 39 A.” [Citation omitted.] The Agency is insisting that the ultimate operator of LC 39A operate and maintain LC 39A for the operator’s benefit, not the Government’s. Indeed, such an assumption of responsibility is the only thing that makes a lease legally permissible under the auspices of the CSLA [Commercial Space Launch Act]. See generally51 U.S.C. § 50913 (stipulating that the authority to lease under the CSLA is only available if the government is providing “launch or reentry property of the United States Government that is excess or otherwise is not needed for public use”). The Agency might also have a future requirement for flux capacitors and warp drives. But future requirements, whether ethereal or concrete, real or imagined, are not current bona fideneeds. CICA jurisdiction does not attach absent a current requirement necessitating procurement for goods or services.

Agency Legal Memorandum, Oct. 21, 2013, at 8 (emphasis in original).

Under the Competition in Contracting Act of 1984 (CICA), we review protests concerning alleged violations of procurement statutes or regulations by federal agencies in the award or proposed award of contracts for the procurement of goods and services, and solicitations leading to such awards. 31 U.S.C. §§ 3551, 3552 (2006); see also 4 C.F.R. § 21.1(a) (2013). As a general matter, our jurisdiction does not extend to challenges concerning the sale or lease of government property since these activities, by their nature, are not procurements. Meyers Cos., Inc., B-275963 et al., Apr. 23, 1997, 97-1 CPD ¶ 148 at 4 (lease of federal land is not a procurement of property or services encompassed by GAO’s bid protest jurisdiction, notwithstanding the lease requirement to erect and maintain fencing).

On the other hand, we have recognized that certain transactions can involve both a sale (or lease) of government property and a procurement of goods or services, and we have taken jurisdiction in these so-called “mixed transaction” cases. For example, in Armed Forces Hospitality, LLC, B-298978.2, B-298978.3, Oct. 1, 2009, 2009 CPD ¶ 192, we took jurisdiction over a protest where the Army sought to obtain renovated or improved transient housing facilities at specified installations. In effect, the transaction contemplated that the Army would transfer ownership of certain physical facilities, and provide a long-term lease of government land, at no cost to the contractor. In return, the contractor would be responsible to construct (or renovate) housing facilities that would be financed, owned, operated and maintained by the contractor at no cost to the government. In that case, we took jurisdiction over the protest because we concluded that the Army obtained a direct benefit from the transaction. Id. at 8.

These “mixed transaction” type cases fall into two broad categories. The first category is those cases where we have taken jurisdiction because the agency receives some direct, but arguably intangible, benefit that aids the agency in the discharge of its mission. For example, we have found that a benefit was conferred to the government through a concession for haircuts for new Air Force recruits (paid for by the recruits), because “the concession agreement is a contract for services under which the [agency] will satisfy its need to obtain initial haircuts for its recruits–which the agency insists is an important aspect of the training experience.” Gino Morena Enters., B-224235, Feb. 5, 1987, 87-1 CPD ¶ 121 at 4. Similarly, we have found that a benefit was conferred on the government through a concession for photocopy services at a U.S. District Court because the use of a concession-type contract aided the court’s mission by reducing its workload and also providing a benefit to the public of more effective access to court records. West Coast Copy, Inc.; Pacific Photocopy & Research Servs., B-254044, B-254044.2, Nov. 16, 1993, 93-2 CPD ¶ 283 at 5-6; see also, New York Tel. Co.; New England Tel. & Tel. Co.; Bell Atlantic Network Servs., Inc., B-236023, B-236097, Nov. 7, 1989, 89-2 CPD ¶ 435 at 2-3 (concession to provide pay phone services to employees and visitors at a General Services Administration facility was subject to GAO protest jurisdiction where the services were intended to satisfy agency mission needs); Armed Forces Hospitality, LLC, supra, (discussed above).[7]

The second category is those cases where a more concrete or tangible benefit is conferred on the agency as part of a mixed transaction. These cases often are hybrid concession type arrangements that require the delivery of goods and/or services to the government that are of more than a de minimus value. See Shields & Dean Concessions, Inc., B-292901.2, B-292901.3, Feb. 23, 2004, 2004 CPD ¶ 42, recon. denied, B-292901.4, Mar. 19, 2004, 2004 CPD ¶ 71 (concessionaire required to provide maintenance, repair and other services for government facility as well as facility improvement valued at over $800,000); Starfleet Marine Transp., Inc., B-290181, July 5, 2002, 2002 CPD ¶ 113 (concessionaire for ferryboat services required to provide janitorial services for agency’s docks and piers, equip ferries with public address systems for use by park rangers, and provide transportation for rangers).

We conclude that the transaction here falls into both of these categories. First, as noted by the terms of the AFP itself, the contemplated lease transaction will:

[F]urther support NASA in fulfilling its mandate to, “seek and encourage, to the maximum extent possible, the fullest commercial use of space.” 51 U.S.C. 20112(a)(4) [(Supp IV, 2010)]. Such use is also authorized under the Commercial Space Launch Act, 51 U.S.C. 50913(a)(1) [(Supp IV, 2010)], which encourages the acquisition by the private sector of launch or reentry property of the U.S. Government that is excess or otherwise not needed for public use.

AFP at BATES 5. Thus, the contemplated transaction will provide a benefit to NASA in the form of directly fulfilling its statutory mandate to seek and encourage the commercial use of space. The intangible benefit of directly assisting NASA in fulfilling its statutory mandate is adequate to confer jurisdiction on our Office. Armed Forces Hospitality, LLC, supra; Gino Morena Enters., supra.

Second, this transaction also confers a concrete benefit on NASA because the successful contractor will be required to operate and maintain LC 39A in some configuration. At a minimum, the successful contractor will be required to maintain the preexisting structures at LC 39A, notably the FSS and the RSS. More practically, since the FSS and RSS were designed specifically as a launch configuration to be used for space shuttle launches, the more likely scenario is that the successful contractor will either modify the FSS and RSS, or alternatively, will demolish the FSS and RSS and construct some other configuration in its place.[8] In all of these scenarios, NASA will be left at the conclusion of the lease agreement either with a well-maintained launch complex in its current configuration, or a reconfigured launch complex that will be useful in one manner or another.

In the final analysis, NASA’s position essentially amounts to an assertion that it will not be benefitted by the transaction because it has no further use for LC 39A. Notably absent from the agency’s position, however, is any explanation for why, if NASA truly has no further use for LC 39A, it simply does not sell it outright, as it is authorized to do under the CSLA. 51 U.S.C. § 50913. Absent such a sale, NASA will be left at the end of the transaction with a launch complex that is at least maintained in its current configuration, and may well be improved by the tenant contractor. Under these circumstances, we conclude that a concrete benefit that is more than de minimus is being conferred on NASA; correspondingly, we find that our Office has jurisdiction to consider Blue Origin’s protest because the transaction at issue constitutes a procurement for goods and services by NASA.

PROTEST

As noted above, Blue Origin filed an agency-level protest arguing that the NASA Administrator’s remarks (regarding the use of LC 39B as a multi-user facility) demonstrated that NASA intended to evaluate proposals in a manner that was inconsistent with what Blue Origin viewed as the requirements of the AFP. AR, exh. 17, Blue Origin Agency-Level Protest. Blue Origin maintained in its agency-level protest that NASA improperly intended to ignore what it views as the AFP’s preference for a multi-user approach. Id. In response to the agency-level protest, NASA concluded, contrary to the position of Blue Origin, that the AFP did not include a preference for a multi-user approach for LC 39A. AR, exh. 18, NASA Response to Blue Origin Agency-Level Protest. After learning of the agency’s views, Blue Origin filed the instant protest within 10 days of receiving NASA’s response to its agency-level protest.

As an initial matter, we note that this case comes before us in an unusual procedural posture. On the one hand, challenges to the terms of a solicitation, to be timely, must be filed in our Office prior to the deadline for submitting proposals. 4 C.F.R. § 21.2(a)(1). This case, while apparently presenting a solicitation challenge, does not fall under that timeliness requirement because Blue Origin had no basis, prior to the submission of proposals and the remarks of the NASA administrator, to know that NASA interpreted the AFP in a manner that was inconsistent with Blue Origin’s interpretation.[9]

On the other hand, protests that maintain that an agency has evaluated proposals in a manner that is inconsistent with the terms of a solicitation typically are filed after the agency announces its source selection decision, consistent with the requirement that a protest must be filed within 10 days of adverse agency action. 4 C.F.R. § 21.2(a)(2). We typically dismiss as speculative and premature protests alleging that an agency intends to evaluate proposals in a manner inconsistent with the terms of a solicitation that are filed prior to the agency’s actual evaluation of proposals. Cryo Tech., B-406003, Jan. 18, 2012, 2012 CPD ¶ 29 at 2 n.1.

Here, Blue Origin filed in our Office within 10 days of being expressly advised by NASA that the agency interpreted the AFP in a manner that was inconsistent with Blue Origin’s interpretation. The protest is not speculative or premature, because NASA effectively has announced how it intends to evaluate proposals–that is, in a manner that is inconsistent with Blue Origin’s reading of the AFP. The protest also is timely because it was filed within 10 days of Blue Origin being advised–through an adverse ruling on its agency-level protest–of NASA’s position regarding its interpretation of the AFP. 4 C.F.R. § 21.2(a)(2). In addition, we conclude that this is the best possible time for our Office to consider the protest. NASA has made clear its intentions regarding how it will evaluate proposals and Blue Origin has made clear its position that it thinks the AFP requires something different in the evaluation of proposals. The most efficient, least intrusive alternative is for our Office to consider the issue now rather than to wait until the acquisition proceeds to a source selection decision.

Turning to the merits of the protest, Blue Origin maintains that the AFP includes a preference favoring a multi-user, rather than exclusive use, approach for LC 39A, but that NASA has made it clear that it does not intend to implement that preference in its evaluation of proposals. In support of its position, Blue Origin directs our attention to two provisions of the AFP. The first provision is included in the instructions to prospective offerors and provides as follows:

Proposers shall stipulate whether they intend to operate LC 39A as an exclusive or multi-user facility. If exclusive use is proposed, Proposers shall provide rationale explaining why exclusive use is needed. If a multi-user facility is proposed, the Proposer shall describe its methodology for accommodating and managing multiple users.

AFP at BATES 8. The second provision is included in the AFP’s proposal evaluation section and provides as follows:

NASA will evaluate the proposed use of LC 39A (exclusive or multi-use) only in terms of meeting the Government’s objective. If a multi-user facility is proposed, NASA will evaluate the proposed methodology for accommodating and managing multiple users. If an exclusive use is proposed, NASA will evaluate the sufficiency of rationale provided as to why exclusive use is needed.

AFP at BATES 11.

According to the protester these two provisions establish a requirement that an offeror proposing exclusive use of LC 39A provide its rationale for why such an arrangement is needed, and also require that NASA evaluate the sufficiency of that rationale. In contrast, according to the protester, offerors proposing a multi-user approach are not required to provide a rationale for their approach, and NASA is not required to evaluate any such underlying rationale.

The protester reasons that, because the AFP requires additional information and analysis with respect to a proposal for an exclusive use approach (what Blue Origin describes as an explanation for the “need” to use the launch pad exclusively), it follows that the AFP includes an inherent preference for a multi-user approach, because such additional information and analysis is not required for the latter approach. According to Blue Origin, an exclusive use approach–and the need therefor–will only be considered under the terms of AFP where there is no acceptable proposal for a multi-user approach; in effect, the protester maintains that the multi-user approach is the “default” approach envisioned by the AFP.

The agency responds that it will not ignore the terms of the AFP because the AFP, on its face, is agnostic regarding an exclusive versus multi-use approach. The agency explains that it is concerned only with achieving the best possible use of LC 39A, consistent with its objective to achieve the fullest commercial use of space. According to the agency, the AFP provisions identified by Blue Origin simply require information–and agency analysis of that information–that would be unique to an exclusive use approach. The agency contends that the AFP was not drafted to give a preference to one approach versus another, but simply seeks information specific to each approach that will enable the agency to assess the comparative merits of those approaches to meeting the government’s objective.

We find that the agency’s interpretation of its AFP is reasonable. Where a dispute exists as to the meaning of a particular solicitation provision, our Office will resolve the matter by reading the solicitation as a whole and in a manner that gives effect to all of its provisions; to be reasonable, an interpretation must be consistent with such a reading. Kevcon, Inc., B-406024.3, June 18, 2012, 2012 CPD ¶ 221 at 3. The interpretation that should prevail is the one that gives reasonable meaning to all provisions and does not render any part absurd or create conflicts among the solicitation’s provisions. Canupp Trucking, Inc., B-261127, Feb. 15, 1996, 96-1 CPD ¶ 137 at 4.

The AFP includes a declaration of the government’s objective in awarding the lease as follows:

NASA will evaluate the Proposer’s overall understanding of the objective and the adequacy of the proposed approach to meeting that objective, i.e. the company which has the best demonstrated capability to assume full financial and technical responsibility for operations and maintenance of LC 39A for a term during which the company will make use of LC 39A in a manner that supports the fullest commercial use of space.

AFP at BATES 8. In effect, NASA seeks to determine which offeror demonstrates the best capability to assume responsibility for operating LC 39A in a manner that supports the fullest commercial use of space. In order to assist NASA in making this determination, the AFP elicits different information depending on which approach–multi-user versus exclusive use–is being offered.

In the case of an exclusive use approach, the AFP requires an explanation for why such an approach is necessary. This is a logical inquiry to be made in connection with an exclusive use approach, since such an approach necessarily will preclude other concerns from using the facility during the term of the lease. There could well be a strong case for an exclusive use approach depending upon information relating to variables that is not currently in the record before our Office, but we need not consider that question at this time.[10]

The AFP elicits different information from an offeror proposing a multi-user approach; the offeror must provide information relating to its proposed methodology for accommodating and managing multiple users. Like the information elicited from an offeror proposing an exclusive use arrangement, this information is logically related to the proposed approach, because such an approach poses technical challenges not present in an exclusive use setting. As with an exclusive use approach, there could well be a strong case for a multi-user approach depending upon information relating to variables that is not currently in the record before our Office, but we also need not consider that question at this time.[11]

In the final analysis, we agree with the agency that the AFP contemplates two possible approaches, but includes no preference for one approach versus another. The approaches are different–and require the presentation of different information to substantiate the plan being offered–but there currently is nothing in the record beyond the protester’s arguments to show that either approach necessarily is better in terms of meeting the agency’s objective of achieving the fullest commercial use of space. Simply stated, that question will be resolved based on the comparative strength of the business cases presented by the offerors.

However, the case at hand only concerns whether the agency’s interpretation of the AFP is reasonable and, based on our discussion above, we conclude that nothing in the language of the AFP favors one approach over the other.

The protest is denied.

Susan A. Poling

General Counsel

 


[1] These differing approaches have been discussed publicly in various news sources. See e.g., http://www.parabolicarc.com/2013/07/20/nasa-weighs-competing-blue-origin-spacex-proposals-for-pad-39-a/.

[2] The agency declined to characterize Blue Origin’s August 8 letter as a protest and also declined to characterize its response to the August 8 letter as a response to that protest because of what the agency described as a lack of jurisdictional prerequisites. AR, exh. 18, at BATES 429, 431. We discuss the question of jurisdiction in detail below.

[3] Although the AFP anticipates various possible arrangements (“ . . . a lease, a use permit, or other form of property out-grant term . . . . “ AFP at BATES 6), the parties generally have used the term lease to describe the possible transaction here. This decision adopts the parties’ terminology.

[4] LC 39A includes two large steel structures known as the fixed service structure (FSS) and the rotating service structure (RSS). See AR, exh. 8, drawing package, at BATES 36. These large steel structures were designed for use in both launching and servicing the space shuttles.

[5] The AFP includes a list of facilities located within the LC 39A complex that NASA intends to use in connection with operation of LC 39B, including (1) AC Power, J8-1708 Launch Pad 39A HV; (2) a gaseous nitrogen battery, high pressure storage, pad A&B; and (3) a helium storage battery, high pressure storage, pad A&B. AR, exh. 4, list of NASA maintained systems at LC 39A, at BATES 18.

[6] Blue Origin also argues that the lessee will provide other benefits to NASA in connection with operating and maintaining LC 39A, including meeting NASA’s obligations to provide responses to environmental issues existing as a consequence of past launches at LC 39A, and also preserving various historical artifacts that exist at LC 39A. NASA responds that it has discharged, or will discharge, all of its obligations relating to environmental remediation and historical preservation of LC 39A.

[7] In support of its position, NASA directs our attention to our decision in Rocketplane Kistler, B-310741, Jan. 28, 2008, 2008 CPD ¶ 22. According to the agency, this case stands for the proposition that our Office will not take jurisdiction in cases solely involving an “intangible” benefit to the agency. That decision is inapposite. The case did not involve a question concerning whether the agency was engaged in a “mixed use” transaction, but, rather, whether NASA was permitted to use its special, separate “other transactions” statutory authority rather than conduct a procurement.

[8] We note that LC 39B, the companion launch complex to LC 39A, is being reconfigured by NASA as a “clean” launch pad that does not include any launcher superstructure. LC 39B is described in the Kennedy Space Center Resource Encyclopedia (KSCRE) (which was incorporated in the AFP by reference), as follows:

As of press time, Launch Pad 39B was being reconfigured to support a clean pad concept. This concept will allow rockets to be transported to the pad on their own launcher, increasing versatility and flexibility and allowing the center to support multiple types of launch systems.

KSCRE at 273. See http://tdglobal.ksc.nasa.gov/servlet/sm.web.Fetch/KHB-1863?rhid=1000&did=35173&type=released&rev=$latest. Indeed, in the event that a “clean” pad technical approach is implemented by the successful contractor, the facility could be useful to NASA because, as described by the agency itself, such a configuration will increase the versatility and flexibility of the launch complex. Id.

[9] In effect, the solicitation included a latent ambiguity that was not evident until Blue Origin learned initially of the remarks of the NASA Administrator and, subsequently, the agency made its position known in responding to Blue Origin’s agency-level protest.

[10] For example, the comparative maturity of one concern’s launch vehicle capabilities versus the maturity of another concern’s launch vehicle capabilities could positively affect the number of launches possible during the lease term.

[11] For example, a robust demonstration of a concern’s capability to manage the logistics and scheduling challenges posed by a multi-user approach also could positively affect the number of launches possible during the lease term.

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